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The Future of Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's disease detection decades before symptoms Auremar/PhotoSpin

In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60, according to the National Institute of Aging. Now researchers say they have detected Alzheimer's among a group with genetic markers as early as 18 years of age.

A recent study, published in the Lancet Neurology, found brain abnormalities in young adults of a Colombian family at genetic risk to develop an early form of Alzheimer’s.

Previous studies showed effects on the brain 10-15 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms arose, BBC reported.

The group of researchers at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Arizona looked at brain scans of 20 people between the ages of 18 and 26 with the mutation.

Their brain scans showed differences compared with the brain scans of 24 people not predisposed for the early-onset of Alzheimer’s. The fluid of the family of destined Alzheimer’s patients had higher levels of beta-amyloid as well. Beta-amyloid is the fluid that coats the brain and spinal cord.

BBC reported that Alzheimer's normally becomes apparent after the age of 75, however, a genetic mutation means disease may hit patients in their 40s. Treating the disease early is vital to prevent damage to memory and cognitive abilities.

There are no symptoms during the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, but toxic brain changes are occurring. Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques throughout the brain and neurons begin to work less efficiently, the National Institute of Aging said. Over time, neurons lose the ability to communicate with each other, ultimately dying.

Researchers have pinpointed biomarkers, brain imaging and cognitive assessment as ways to reveal progression of Alzheimer’s, Mayoclinic.com said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts believe that biomarkers offer one of the most promising treatments. Biomarkers include proteins in blood or spinal fluid, mutations or brain changes and are reliable predictors of disease process.

Currently, there are no validated biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease, said the Alzheimer’s Association.

As many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease, the National Institute of Aging said. The hope of the Alzheimer’s Association is that future treatments can detect the disease before brain damage or mental decline has occurred.


Earlier Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved November 12, 2012.

Alzheimer's detected decades before symptoms
BBC News. Retrieved November 12, 2012.

Alzheimer’s Disease. Mayoclinic.com. Retrieved November 13, 2012.

Brain imaging and fluid biomarker analysis in young adults at genetic risk for autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease in the presenilin 1 E280A kindred: a case-control study
The Lancet Neurology. Retrieved November 12, 2012.

Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 13, 2012.

Reviewed November 15, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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November 16, 2012 - 11:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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